DigitalK 2017 Highlights

In case the phenomenal DigitalK afterparties caused you to have short-term memory loss, here are the most exciting highlights from the conference

Day 1

The Promise of Blockchain: A Currency of Trust

The conference opened with Brock Pierce, who had substituted his signature pink hat for a silver suit. Brock focused on the rising importance of ICOs, the difference in value between bitcoin and ethereum, and the possibility of a bubble forming around virtual currencies. According to Pierce, the increased popularity of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technologies will democratise access to capital. This is going to have a particularly strong impact on entrepreneurs and startups from developing markets.  

Your take-away:

Pierce showed statistics that for the first time ever, more startups are gathering investments through initial coin offerings (ICOs), than with the help of traditional venture capital funds. In 2017 thus far, blockchain entrepreneurs have collected over $327 million by means of ICOs. 

Favourite DigitalK Quote: 

“Blockchain technologies will empower more founders to start their businesses, regardless of where in the world they happen to be”


Eye to Eye: Vision is the Killer App for AI 

Evan Nisselson, serial entrepreneur, investor and professional photographer talked about the internet of eyes. According to the expert on computer vision, cameras will soon be everyone, solving some of the world’s most serious problems. Nisselson stated that visual technologies are at a very high level at present – so whether it’s sensors, AR, VR, biometrics, gesture recognition, autonomous cars, robotic vision, or visual search – the internet of eyes is the next big thing. The future may not put stars in our eyes, but cameras for certain. 

Your take-away:

90% of our daily interactions as humans relate to visual understanding and communication. In the future, computers will mimic our visual perception of reality and use it to analyse data and achieve their goals. 

Favourite DigitalK Quote: 

‘I don’t like to work! I live to do creative, intelligent things. Why should we be worried about losing our jobs? We can get much better ones as AI takes boring tasks away!’


How Self-Driving Cars will Save and Change the World: 

Brad Templeton, a developer and commentator on self-driving cars, centred his keynote around the unexpected changes self-driving cars will bring about. From the disrupting a variety of industries, including insurance, retail, healthcare and even fashion, to changing our attitudes towards religion and city planning, self-driving cars are one of the most radical agents for change today. 

Your take-away: 

Personal car ownership will become a matter of choice and display of wealth, rather than the norm, in the next 15 years. 

Favourite DigitalK Quote: 

“I imagine a future where 100% of cars will be self-driving, but it is going to take a while. I don’t think we will ban people from driving, we haven’t even got ridden of hose-drawn carriages yet. But human drivers will most likely be redirected to a separate lane.”

Immersion Tank: To Virtual Reality and Back 

Dean Johnson, Head of Innovation at Brandwith, talked about his experience of spending 48 hours in VR. The most surprising aspect of the challenge was how quickly he got accustomed to it, Johnson said: “It may be because I am spending too much time in VR already, but I was feeling absolutely adjusted.” The expert talked about the application of VR in various industries, including gaming, social media marketing, medical and education. The self-described VR fanatic concluded that the highest value added of the technology is going to be in education and training. 

Your take-away: 

The majority of learning methods involve being passive and sitting in front of a screen or a book. In VR you are learning while experiencing the training yourself. Statistics show that over 80% of what we experience physically, we manage to retain. At the same time, people retain between 10% and 20% of what they read.

Favourite DigitalK Quote: 

“One of the biggest areas of opportunity in the foreseeable future will be avatars. It feels to me like the next “ringtone revolution”. Today, I can’t believe that people used to pay money to download ringtones. I think that a similar thing will happen with avatars – people will pay to have it created.”

DAY 2: 


What Exactly Is An Entrepreneur? 

Adeo Ressi, founder of The Founders Institute, charged everyone’s hearts and minds with a most inspiring keynote on the entrepreneurial mindset. The FI aims to enable everyone, who wants to start a business, to do so – even if they don’t have the financial independence to quit their day job. On stage, Ressi issued a challenge for 100 people from Sofia to start a business in the next two months, in order to get scholarships for the Bulgarian chapter of the FI. Use #StartInSofia to pitch your idea directly to Ressi and win an hour of his mentorship. 

Your take-away: 

Anyone can start a business with the right mentorship and support. Today, with the expansive availability of mentorship and training programs, it is easier than ever. Go get them, tiger! 

Favourite DigitalK Quote: 

“You are not broken. The world is broken. Entrepreneurs fix whatever’s broken. Let’s make our world beautiful and let’s start in Sofia!”


Accelerators Re-Imagined: Getting Up To Speed

Marvin Liao, partner at 500 Startups, and Max Kelly, director of TechStars London were interviewed on stage by Natalia Kiskova, founder of HubHub – the largest co-working in Slovenia. 

While many observers talk about an accelerator bubble, startups and entrepreneurs see the hubs as the new business schools. If it is a bubble, it is unlikely to deflate anytime soon. Accelerators are too useful – not only do they bring startups up to speed, they provide access to a valuable network of contacts and give entrepreneurial ideas a stamp of approval.

Accelerators like 500 Startups and Techstars also perform a crucial function in the startup supply chain – picking up the teams and ideas that are most likely to succeed and connecting them to the investors with the competence to bring entrepreneurs even further.

Your take-away:

For mentoring to work, founders and mentors have to be well matched, so TechStars programmes start with a mentoring marathon: over ten days founders meet more than 100 people for half an hour each. 



Mindset of Abundance 

Naveen Jain, serial entrepreneur and founder of Moon Express (first company with a commercial license to land on the moon and extract resources from its surface) and Viome (which sets the ambitious goal of “making illness elective”), talked about his journey from a small village in India to global success and recognition. Jain walked the DigitalK audience through the difficulties he faced and overcame, while making a life for himself in a foreign country, where he didn’t even speak the language. 
According to Jain, we are at the dawn of space travel as a recreational experience. The founder of Moon Express believes that in the next 5 years, we will be able to go on our honeymoons on… the Moon. 

Your take-away: 

Jain shared his five top reasons for never giving up: 1) You haven’t tried everything; 2) You are closer than you think; 3) The past does not equal the future; 4) Better to die trying; 5) No regrets!

Favourite DigitalK Quote: 

“Never let anyone tell you you dream too big! Every idea sounds crazy up to the day of the breakthrough.” 

Why Everything is Hackable and What You Can Do About It? 
Ralph Echemedia, a.k.a. The Ethical Hacker, managed to hack an attendee’s phone on stage. According to Echemendia, if the NSA is not watching you, someone else probably is. The expert believes that cyber security is very much still in its infancy, which means that everything needed for someone to steal your identity online is already out there. People aren’t aware of what their phone is doing. Your entire life runs on tech – your digital identity is tied to your physical life, but there physical vs virtual debate is no longer relevant. Virtual is the new real. 
Your take-away: 
The average time it takes a company to figure out they’ve been hacked is 229 days, which is way too long. 
Favourite DigitalK Quote:
“The weakest link in cyber security is…YOU!”
Culture First: Don’t F*%K With The People 
David Bizer, former Head of Recruitment for Google, talked about the importance of culture for keeping a company healthy. According to Bizer, companies should always focus on hiring the best people. Building amazing teams is very, very hard to do, especially with growing pressure from investors and stakeholders to grow your business fast. On stage, Bizer advised founders to push back and focus on the long-run. It’s going to hurt you more to hire someone who’s just okay. 
Your take-away: 
Bizer says that what he took from Google in terms of hiring culture is patience. With startups in particular that is challenging. With new companies everything is urgent, everything needs to get done today or tomorrow. This poses a risk of hiring the wrong person, as you did it in a hurry. On stage at DigitalK, Bizer insisted that hiring the wrong person is the worst that can happen to a startup. 
Favourite DigitalK Quote: 
“The simplest most useful thing you can do as a manager is spend 30 minutes each week to talk to your people!”

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